A Tale of Bad Dogs and Raw Sewage
Bad dogs and raw sewage were among the many challenges to the students who participated in a three-day Water Sentinels water testing program in Tennessee recently. James Baker of the Water Sentinels assisted Sharon Gordon of the Memphis Storm Water Department in teaching the SWEEP and PEEP students the ropes of field testing for water quality. (SWEEP is the Solid Waste Environmental Engineering Enrichment Program, and PEEP is the Pre-Engineering Enrichment Program.)
On the first day, much illegal dumping was found in the Cypress Creek area. Cypress Creek may be lined with concrete, but it was blighted by garbage and used motor oil. While field screening showed only low concentrations of industrial pollutants, the students, Sharon, and James walked a section of the creek and found the oil, garbage, and a potential raw sewage leak all within a quarter mile of the testing site.
On the second day, the students did a rapid bio-assessment at a concrete drainage ditch that empties into the Wolf River in Germantown near Shelby Farms Park. Low concentrations of aquatic animals were found, possibly because the flow of water from nearby residential and commercial development wash them away.
To see a stream in its natural state, the students visited Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park on the third day. Lack of rain meant low water in all the creeks and a shortage of aquatic insects. There were plenty of other things to observe in Shelby Forest, and to see snakes, fish, and insects there was always the excellent park Nature Center.
The SWEEP and PEEP youths each got a Sierra Club backpack and a Water Sentinels t-shirt. They also took with them a better knowledge of the techniques of field testing and a greater appreciation for the natural world.
(This article appears in the September 2007 Tennes-Sierran, the newsletter of the Tennessee Chapter, reprinted with permission. Both photos by James Baker.)